We are an independent Baptist church. Our building may be found at 5860 Autumn Oaks Lane, in Naples. Autumn Oaks Lane is parallel to Imokalee, just east of Interstate 75.
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The Holy Scriptures
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the verbally and plenary inspired Word of God. The Scriptures are inerrant, infallible and God-breathed, and therefore are the final authority for faith, life, and practice. The sixty-six books of the Old and the New Testament are complete and the divine revelation of God to Man. The Scripture shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical-historical meaning. We believe that God’s Word has been divinely preserved in the English language and commonly known as the Authorized King James Version. Therefore the Authorized King James Version shall be the official and only translation used by the Church. (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20-21).
We believe in one Triune God, eternally existing in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, each coeternal in being, co-identical in nature, coequal in power and glory, having the same attributes and perfections. (Deut. 6:4; Matt 28:19; II Cor 13:14; John 14:10, 26).
The Person and Work of Christ
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, without ceasing to be God, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, in order that He might reveal God and redeem sinful men. (Isa. 7:14, Lk 1:35; Jn 1:1-2, 14:2; II Cor 5:19-21; Gal 4:4-5; Phil 2:5-8).
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished our redemption through His death on the cross as a representative, vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice; and, that our justification is made sure by His literal, physical resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:18-36; Rom. 3:24-25; I Peter 2:24; Eph. 1:17; I Peter 1:3-5).
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven, and is now exalted at the right hand of God, where, as our High Priest, He fulfills the ministry of Representative, Intercessor, and Advocate (Acts 1:9-10; Heb 9:25; Rom 8:34; I Jn 2:1-2)
The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is a person who convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and judgment; and that He is a Supernatural Agent in regeneration, indwelling and sealing them unto the day of redemption (Jn 16:8-11; Romans 8:9; Eph 1:13-14)
We believe that He is the Divine Teacher who assists believers to understand and appropriate the Scriptures and that it is the privilege and duty of all the saved to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 1:17-18; 5:18; I Jn 2:20,27).
We believe that God is sovereign in the bestowal of spiritual gifts to every believer. God uniquely uses evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip believers in the assembly in order that they can do the work of the ministry (Rom 12:3-8; I Cor 12:4-11; Eph 4:7-12).
We believe the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and the gift of healing were temporary. We believe that speaking in tongues was never the common necessary sign of the filling of the Holy Spirit and that ultimate deliverance of the body from sickness or death awaits the consummation of our salvation in the resurrection, though God frequently chooses to answer the prayers of believers for physical healing (I Cor 1:22; 13:8; 14:21-22; James 5:15).
The Sin Nature of Man
We believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God, but that in Adam’s sin the human race fell, inherited a sinful nature, and became alienated from God; and, that man is totally depraved, and of himself, utterly unable to remedy his lost condition (Gen 1:26-27; Romans 3:22-23; 5:12; 6:23; Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19)
The Gift of Salvation
We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose precious blood was shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins (Jn 1:12; Eph 1:7; 2:8; I Peter 19-20). This free gift of salvation is fully available to all who will receive it by faith. We reject the notion that only the “elect” may be saved, or that God has chosen who can and cannot be saved. Salvation is available to “whosoever will” receive it.
We believe that in order to be saved, sinners must be born again; that the new birth is a new creation in Christ Jesus; that it is instantaneous and not a process; that in the new birth the one dead in trespasses and in sins is made a partner of the divine nature and receives eternal life, the free gift of God; that new creation is brought about in a manner above our comprehension, not by culture, not by character, nor by the will of man, but wholly and solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in connection to the gospel; that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance and faith and newness of life.
We believe that the great gospel blessing which Christ secures to such as believe in Him is justification; that justification includes the pardon of sin, and the gift of eternal life on principles of righteousness; that is bestowed not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done; but solely through faith in the Redeemer’s blood. His righteousness is imputed unto us.
We believe that repentance and faith are solemn obligations. When we are deeply convicted of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and openly confessing Him as our only and all-sufficient Saviour (Jn 3:3; II Cor 5:17; Lk 5:27; I Jn 5:1, Jn 3:6-7; Acts 2:41; II Peter 1:4; Rom 6:23; Eph 2:1; II Cor 5:19; Col 2:13; Jn 1:12013; Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9; Acts 13:39; Rom 8:1; 5:9, 5:1; Titus 3:5-7; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Rom 4:1; Heb 10:38; Acts 20:21; Mark 1:15; Acts 2:37-38; Lk 18:13, 12:8; Romans 20:9-13).
The Eternal Security and Assurance of Believers
We believe that all the redeemed, once saved, are kept by God’s power by the sealing of the Holy Spirit and are thus secure in Christ forever (Jn 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Romans 8:1, 38-39; I Cor 1:4-8; I Peter 1:4-5).
We believe that it is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s Word, which, however clearly forbids the use of Christian liberty as an occasion to do as the flesh wills (Romans 13:13-14; Gal 5:13; Titus 2:11-15)
A Biblical Church
We believe the Scriptures teach that a Baptist Church is a local, visible, assembly of baptized believers associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by His laws, and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word; that its only Scriptural offices are pastors (elders, bishops), and deacons, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are clearly defined in the New Testament; that the true mission of each church is found in the Great Commission, first to make individual disciples. Secondly, to build up the church by baptizing those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Thirdly, to teach and instruct as our Lord has commanded. This order cannot be reversed; that each church has the absolute right to self government, free from interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations; that the only One and truly head of each church is Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit; that it is Scriptural for churches of like faith and order to co-operate with each other in contending for the faith and for the furtherance of the Gospel, but that every church is sole and only judge of the measure and method of its co-operation; that in all matters of membership, policy, government, discipline, and benevolence, the free will of each church is final (Acts 2:41, 42, 47, 5:11, 11:31; I Cor :17, 5:5-18, 11:2,23, Ii Cor 8:5, 23-24; I Tim 3:5,15; II Thess 3:7; Rom 16:17-20; Matt 18:15-20, 28:19-20, Jn 14:15, 15:10; I Jn 4:21; I Thess 4:2; II Jn 6; Phil 1:1; Acts 14:23; 15:22-23; 20:17-28; I Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; Eph 1:22-23; 4:11; I Cor 12:4, 8-11; Acts 6:5-6; Col 1: 18; Eph 5:23-24; I Peter 5:1-4; Jude 3-4; I Cor 5:11-13, 6:1-3).
We believe that the establishment and continuance of churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament Scriptures (Matt 16:18; Acts 13:1-3; 14:27; 20:17; 14:28-32; I Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-11).
We recognize water baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the Scriptural and only ordinances of the church.
We believe the Scriptures teach that baptism is by immersion in water of the believer in Christ, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, performed with the church’s authority; to show forth in solemn and beautiful emblem of our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its effects in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life; that it is a pre-requisite to the privileges of church membership; that infants are God’s little ones, whether children of non-Christian parents, and are safe in Christ until an age or moral accountability is reached, thus making any thoughts of “infant baptism” unnecessary. This church will not recognize for membership any baptism administered by a church that is not a Baptist church of like faith and practice with us. (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:41, 8:12-13, 8:26-39, 18:7-11; Col 2:12).
The Lord's Supper
We believe the Scriptures teach that the Lord’s Supper is a provision of unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, as symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood, partaken of by the members of a church, in commemoration of the suffering and death of their Lord, and in hopeful anticipation of His return. Since it is unscriptural for any Pastor to usurp authority over members of another church, this church will practice only what is called “closed” or “restricted” Lord’s Supper. Thus, only those members of this church, in good standing with this church, may partake of this ordinance here. (Matt 18; Matt 26:27-30, Mk 14:20-26, Lk 22:19-20, I Cor 10:16, 11:2, 11:17-34).
We believe that all saved should live in such a manner as not to bring reproach upon their Saviour and Lord; and, that separation from all religious apostasy, and all worldly and sinful pleasures, practices, and associations is commanded of God (Rom 12:1-2, 14:13, II Cor 7:1, II Tim 3:1-5, I Jn 2:15-17, II Jn 9-11).
The Second Coming of Christ
We believe in that “blessed hope,” the personal, imminent return of Christ who will rapture all believers prior to the seven-year tribulation period. At the end of the Tribulation, Christ will personally and visibly return with His saints, to establish His earthly Messianic Kingdom, which was promised to the nation of Israel (Psm 89:3-4, Dan 2:31-45, Zech 14:4-11; I Thess 1:10, 4:13-18, Titus 2:13, Rev 3:10, 19:11-16, 20:1-6).
The Eternal State of Man
We believe in the bodily resurrection of all men, the saved to eternal life, and the unsaved to judgment and everlasting punishment (Matt 25:46, Jn 5:28-29, 11:25-26, Rev 20:5-6, 20:12-13).
We believe that the souls of the redeemed are, at death, absent from the body and present with the Lord, where in conscious bliss they await the first resurrection, when spirit, soul, and body are united to be glorified forever with the Lord (Lk 23:43, II Cor 5:8, Phil 1:23, 3:21, I Thess 4:16-17, Rev 20:4-6).
We believe that the souls of the unbelievers remain after death, in conscious punishment and torment until the second resurrection, when with soul and body reunited they shall appear at the Great White Throne Judgment, and shall be cast into the Lake of Fire, not to be annihilated, but to suffer everlasting conscious punishment and torments (Matt 25:41-46; Mk 9:43-48; II Thess 1:7-9; Jude 6-7; Rev 20:11-15).
We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of homosexuality (Gay, Lesbian, bisexual, Transgender), bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery, and pornography are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex.
Any employee of the church, as well as any person in a position of leadership, becoming pregnant or causing pregnancy as a result of consensual intercourse, outside of the marriage relationship, shall be terminated from employment of their position. Furthermore, any employee of the church or any person in a position of leadership within the church that is involved in the activities outlined in this section (N), shall be immediately terminated or relieved of their position (Gen 2:24, Gen 19:5, 19:13, Gen 26:8-9, Lev 18:1-30, Rom 1:26-29, I Cor 5:1, 1:6-9, I Thess 4:1-8, Heb 13:4).
We believe that the only legitimate marriage is the joining of one man and one women until death do them part. Homosexual relationships (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) will not be allowed church membership or leadership positions under any circumstance nor will we support missionaries who do not align with this Statement of Faith. Our Church grounds and facilities will not be leased or rented by our church nor will our minister (or staff member) perform weddings that do not align with this Statement of Faith. (Gen 2:21-25, Rom 7:2, I Cor 7:10, Eph 5:22-23).
We believe that men and women are spiritually equal in position before God but that God has ordained distinct and separate spiritual functions for men and women in the home and the church. The husband is to be the leader of the home and men are to be the leaders (pastors and deacons) of the church. Accordingly, only men who have been born a man and have always been a man are eligible for licensure and ordination by the church (Gal 3:28, Col 3:18, I Tim 2:8-15, 3:4-5, 3:12).
Divorce and Remarriage
We believe that God hates divorce and intends marriage to last until one of the spouses dies. Although divorce and remarried persons or divorced persons may hold positions of service in the church and be used greatly of God for Christian service, they may not be considered for the offices of pastor, evangelist, or deacon (Mal 2:14-17, Matt 19:2-12, Rom 7:1-3, I Tim 3:2, 3:12, Titus 1:6).
We believe that a human life begins at conception and the unborn child is a living human being. Abortion constitutes the unjustified, unexcused taking of unborn human life. We believe that all abortion is murder! We reject any teaching that abortions of pregnancies due to rape, incest, birth defects, gender selection, birth or population control, or the mental well being of the mother is acceptable (Job 3:16, Psm 51:5, 135:14-16, Isa 44:24, Isa 49:1-5, Jer 1:5, 20:15-18, Lk 1:44).
Lawsuits Between Believers
We believe that Christians are prohibited from bringing civil lawsuits against other Christians or the church to resolve personal disputes. We believe the church possesses all the resources necessary to resolve personal disputes between members (see Article 8). We do believe, however, that a Christian may seek compensation for injuries from another Christian’s insurance company as long as the claim is pursued without malice or slander (I Cor 6:1-8, Eph 4:31-32).
We believe that every Christian, as a steward of that portion of God’s wealth entrusted to Him, is obligated to support his church financially. We believe that God has established the tithe as a basis for giving, but that every Christian should also give other offerings sacrificially and cheerfully to the support of the church, the relief of those in need, and the spread of the Gospel. We believe that a Christian relinquishes all rights to direct the use of the tithe or offering once the gift has been made. Naples Baptist Temple will not place members into offices, hire staff, or allow teachers who do not tithe (Gen 14:20, Proverbs 3:9-10, Acts 4:34-37, I Cor 9:6-7, Gal 6:6, Eph 4:28, I Tim 5:17-18, I Jn 3:17).
We believe that the Scriptures interpreted in their natural, literal sense reveal divinely determined dispensations or rules of life, which define man’s responsibilities in successive ages. These dispensations are not ways of salvation, but rather are divinely ordered stewardships by which God directs man according to His purpose. Three of these dispensations: the law, the church, and the kingdom, are subjects of detailed revelation in Scripture (Gen 1:28, I Cor 9:17, II Cor 3:9-18, Gal 3:13-25, Eph 1:10, 3:2-10, Col 1:24-27, Rev 20:2-6).
The Personality of Satan
We believe that Satan is a person, the author of sin, and the cause of the Fall of Man; that he is the open and declared enemy of God and man; and, that he shall be eternally punished in the Lake of Fire (Job 1:6-7, Isa 14:12-17, Matt 4:2-11, 25:41, Rev 20:10).
We believe that God created the universe in six literal, 24-hour periods. We reject evolution, the Gap Theory, the Day-Age Theory, and Theistic Evolution as unscriptural theories of origin (Gen 1-2, Ex 20:11)
We believe that God has ordained and created all authority consisting of three basic institutions: 1) the home; 2) the church; and 3) the state. Every person is subject to these authorities, but all (including the authorities themselves) are answerable to God and governed by His Word. God has given each institution specific Biblical responsibilities and balanced those responsibilities with the understanding that no institution has the right to infringe upon the other. The home, the church, and the state are equal and sovereign in their respective Biblically assigned spheres of responsibility under God (Rom 13:1-7, Eph 5:22-24, Heb 13:17, I Peter 2:13-14).
We believe that God has given the church a great commission to proclaim the Gospel to all nations so that there might be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, ethnic group, and language group who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. As ambassadors of Christ we must use all available means to go to all who have not heard the message of Salvation, both at home and abroad. We are not to wait for them to come to us. Furthermore, we believe the Great Commission outlines God’s plan for missions, which are three-fold: Evangelism, Baptism, and Discipleship. The most biblical form of missions is the carrying out of all three aspects of the commission by the planting and establishing of local, New Testament, Baptist churches. For this purpose, our body of believers will meet together annually for the sole purpose of Faith Promise Giving with heart-felt desires to send missionaries across America and the world abroad. Naples Baptist Temple will not support Missionaries who do not agree with our Statement of Faith or the requirements for ministry laid out in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9.
About the Baxter Family
Joseph answered the call to preach in 1996, and Pastor Leon Gray began to send him out to fill pulpits. He was also used in the Nursing Home ministries of Berean. During that time, Joseph (unmarried) served briefly as an interim pastor at Wilson Avenue Baptist. After his marriage to Karis, Pastor Gray asked Joseph to teach the Berean College and Career Class.
Karis and Joseph have been married since May of 1999. The Lord has blessed them with six children: Kendra, Evan, Titus, Nolan, Liam, and Colin. Kendra serves faithfully as a teacher for the 3-to-5-year class in Sunday School and with special music. Evan has often led music on Wednesday evenings and Titus, also called to preach, has filled the pulpit and made announcements. Both Evan and Titus currently attend college.
Karis Baxter is the daughter of Kirk and Bonnie King, missionaries to Albania. Before marrying Joseph, Karis spent three years in Albania during her parent’s first term. In that time, she became semi-proficient in the language. Karis was saved at twenty-two years old and followed the Lord in scriptural Baptism. She has been used of God to lead several ladies to Salvation, particularly after teaching through the six lessons of the Basic Bible Truths. She has always been active in the church choirs, in special music, leads in devotions at monthly Ladies Meetings, and is always ready to fill-in for children’s Sunday School teachers.
Joseph was called and ordained as Pastor of Tenth Street Baptist in 2002. Upon returning to Berean sometime later, Pastor Jeff Ables used Joseph in Junior Church as well as in the H.O.P.E. Addictions Recovery Ministry. Joseph also preaches his program of Family Technology Safety in churches across the country.
The Lord moved the Baxter family to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2013. While unexpected, the purpose of this move became clear later, as that road eventually lead to Naples, Florida. In May of 2019, Naples Baptist Temple called Joseph to be pastor.
Joseph's Personal Testimony
What if you longed for your life to change?
Church attendance seemed very important in our home. The little country Southern Baptist Church near our farm generally ran over one hundred and fifty and sometimes upwards of two-hundred in those days. My oldest brother, Lane, led the music there in between his College classes and farming. God had given him an incredible baritone voice. My remaining four brothers all attended church (Mom would have nothing else) and sat with their friends from public school. I sat with Mom. If I had been asked at the time, I would surely have proclaimed my life to be as normal and natural as any.
Another little boy attended our church named Steve. His grandfather owned the piece of property catty-cornered from our land. I’d known him my entire life from nursery at church and, by that time, elementary school. We always had the same Sunday school teachers and Vacation Bible School teachers year after year, and I remember wondering why. Other classes always had a wide range for fun teachers. We could see them making fun projects and doing interesting things. I found out many years later that most of the other ladies would refuse to help if their class would include him. He and I didn’t get along, but were so often together, that we knew each other well.
To the best of my knowledge, it happened in VBS between my first and second grade years. The pastor had decided to teach VBS himself in the afternoons that year and brought us all into the Sanctuary for flannel graph sessions. I don’t know which day of the week it might have been, but in the invitation after one of the messages, Steve went forward with a smile on his face. I cannot explain why that goaded me so, but in an instant, I decided to follow him to the front. I felt no conviction from the Holy Spirit, neither do I remember what precisely occurred. I acted my part, and subsequently pronounced to be Saved, wasn’t it great? The experience moved me so deeply that I forgot to tell my own mother for several days.
In other words, nothing happened.
As Mom started talking to me afterward about Baptism, in my heart began to dawn the realization that some things in my life didn’t add up. I remember the exact spot where I stood on the sidewalk in front of the church house when I came to a startling conclusion. Shouldn’t there be something different about my life now? If I were Saved, shouldn’t things change? Oddly enough, I don’t know that the preaching told me that so much as the Convicting power of the Holy Spirit. He began to draw me, but I had already locked the door of my heart. After all, I would be baptized in a few days, for whatever good that would do me.
To be clear, the people around me did not cause my problems. I’m certain that many of them truly loved the Lord. No, my pride alone caused my problems. I was at fault. My sin separated me from a Holy God but I wouldn’t admit it. I was not a victim of someone else’s bad intentions or doctrinal subversion; instead, I think I really believed that the problem would go away on its own. The night of John’s wedding rehearsal I impaled my foot on a nail outdoors but never told anyone. Please think about it–that meant I would rather risk tetanus rather than face the pain of an injection. I limped around all night and ‘made it through’ without revealing my injury, lending further credit to my budding personal philosophy of avoidance. I remember with great clarity one Sunday evening seated under preaching and deep conviction. I no longer believed I possessed Salvation by this point, but everyone else did. I knew I should respond. I knew I should go forward, but I didn’t. It may sound tragically comical, but as an eight-year-old, I rationalized an age-old sinner’s excuse from whole cloth. I should clean up some things in my life before I approached God, and if I held out through the invitation, maybe this dreadful agony in spirit would go away for a little while.
If only I had obeyed Him right then.
Our little church screened the film “A Distant Thunder” roughly a year later. Mom at first refused to let me see it, but I begged and begged, and she relented. Not for spiritual reasons, but purely out of peer pressure, as other young people would attend. I am eternally thankful for that night. Not because the film contained great doctrinal truths or eschatological clarity, but because it scared the living daylights out of me. For the next eleven years, I would awaken several times nightly to check on my mother. I needed to see if she were still asleep in bed, for I knew if the Lord Jesus Christ had already returned to catch up His saints, I would remain unawares and left behind. I lived in fear that I might fall into the hands of an angry God. Almost nightly I would ask the ceiling for Salvation, even asking a formulaic please-forgive-me, but never would I stop and face my sin. I understood completely my separation from God, but refused to consider the reason why.
During this time, I slipped into rebellion at home. When I could, I refused to attend church. The only child left at home by then, and ten years younger than my five brothers, I would rather sit home to watch Star Trek reruns. A new pastor came (who preached an unsound doctrine) and we changed churches. Things deteriorated even more. What kind of church allows the youth, boys and girls alike, to sleep over together and, generally unsupervised, watch horror movies all night? God continued to pursue me. Even one revival meeting at the new church made me certain that we’d crash on the country roads going home and in Hell, I’d lift up my eyes, being in torment.
Nonetheless, I continued to reject God’s still and small voice. Pride is a wicked thing. I never thought I wouldn’t get Saved, but some other day, some future time. Such conceit!
Driving home while extremely drunk at seventeen, I stuck a parked car on the dark and icy roads. People were standing nearby, working to pull their vehicle from the ditch that held it, and I thank the Lord that He prevented me from killing one of them that night. One might imagine my heart would soften after this. After the financial hardships it caused my parents, the embarrassment of vomiting on the Highway Patrolman, the machinations of the legal system; I should have been ready to run into God’s waiting embrace. If anything, however, it hardened me. The world, the flesh, and the Devil continually whispered my failures into my ear and I began to see myself as essentially valueless. My problems had not gone away, and to my horror, I began to suspect they never would.
We all began college and many of my friends went on to great academic distinction. After one semester achieved nothing but academic probation. Kicked out of school, minimum wage part-time job, and no prospects. When I did make money, I wouldn’t use it pay my bills, so soon I became an even greater burden on my parents. No future existed. None of my plans would ever find realization.
I was going through the motions.
Silly as it sounds, a final cancelation notice for my high-risk auto insurance broke the camel’s back. It waited on my bed that night when I came home from my pathetic job. I don’t know why, but it seemed like everything gave way. I no longer could hide from the truth any longer. I could no more lie to myself that ‘one day’ things will be better. I knew better. They wouldn’t.
I had come to the end of myself.
It happened there in my bedroom, alone in the wee hours of the morning, one night during the second week of June, in the year 1991. I could no longer run from God. He had not cornered me, but rather I stood on the ledge, casting about for a safe way to escape Him and finding nothing. I would take Him as Savior or step off into final rejection. I would allow Him to pay for my sins or pay for them myself throughout all eternity. The choice stood starkly before me. I tried to read a Bible, but didn’t know where to look. I mouthed the words of my silly save-me-now incantations, but to no avail.
Finally, I quit trying to meet God on my own terms.
I threw away all that I thought I knew and cried out to God. I no longer held anything back and with no idea what to do, I simply admitted my utter failure and said, “Lord, if you’ll still have me, I want to be Saved! I’ll give it all up. You can have everything!” And then, perhaps naively, I began to list anything I could think up, whether good or bad, loved or hated, He could have it all. I meant it! For the first time, I really meant business with God.
He met me right there. The Bible says the Kingdom of God is “at hand.” That doesn’t mean imminent in the sense of time, but ever close in the sense of location. I didn’t have to travel back from my far country. He didn’t tell me to come back when I had fixed up my life. I turned from my way and myself, and suddenly, I was in Christ’s hand. I know I cried, probably out of relief. However, I did not yet fully understand the magnitude of what He had done.
After so many years demanding to be Saved on my terms, it took a few weeks for the reality to settle in, so that I began to comprehend it. I saw Him change a few things in my life almost immediately and felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit to begin changing even more. Before, I would have fought tooth and nail, but now I wanted to change things to please God. Where I had only known the conviction of my sin as the singular word, now He convicted me of my sins in the plural form, every time. I learned to keep a short account with him through confession. I even now truly only grasp little more of the enormity of His Glory and Grace than I did that night. There remains much I don’t yet know.
However, this much I do know: I know I didn’t wake up that night and check on Mom.
Nor the next one.